After six years of overseeing operations at the old MEMC building, often alone, Bruce Armstrong has found a new job with Sherman’s newest employer — Finisar Corp that will keep him in that building as it comes back to life.
The optical communications components manufacturer purchased the empty MEMC building on Sherman’s south side earlier this year and recently announced that it would create 500 new jobs as part of the move. But when it came time to hire a manager for its new facility, the company decided it already had the right man for the job.
“He’s got a lot of experience here,” Finisar Chief Executive Officer Jerry S. Rawls said of Armstrong. “He knows where everything is hidden in this building. He knows the strengths, he knows the weaknesses. He’s going to get us off to a great start.”
Armstrong began his career with MEMC in 1997 as a facilities engineer. And when the plant ceased operations in 2011, Armstrong was asked to stay on and oversee the relocation of the facility’s equipment to Malaysia.
“I guess I’d say I did quite the double take when I got the offer,” Armstrong said. “It was a completely unexpected opportunity and a huge cultural shift. But I talked with my wife and we decided it was an experience we’d never find anywhere else.”
After roughly two years in Southeast Asia, Armstrong returned to Sherman where he continued to support MEMC operations from within the building and with remote assistance from other company employees.
“While we were here, we performed a variety of functions,” Armstrong said. “We supported other engineering projects at other sites. And to help out here, we often worked with the chemicals transport systems and made sure they were working properly.”
With some 700,000 square feet of office and production space to oversee, Armstrong also spent a good portion of his time just walking throughout the facility. On an average day, Armstrong said he’d log five miles and on his busiest day, he’d walk twice that distance.
“It doubles as a work out, but it was necessary to traverse the building,” Armstrong said. “I guess I really hadn’t sat down and figured out how many miles it might be total, but I don’t doubt it comes out into the thousands.”
Armstrong was hired by Finisar in mid-November and the company charged him with readying the building for its operations. But even with an extensive knowledge of the building, Armstrong said he still had his work cut out for him thanks to ongoing interior renovations and the future installation of more than $100 million worth of manufacturing equipment.
“It’s kind of a fast paced retrofit of the facility for new manufacturing,” Armstrong said. “So this is really kind of a new task for me. I’m no longer running an existing facility, it’s ramping up a non-functional facility into a working one and doing so in a short amount of time.”
Despite his workload, Armstrong said he was glad to know that his building would soon be back online and he was looking forward to having hundreds of new coworkers to walk the floors alongside him.
“It’s an exciting venture,” Armstrong said. “We’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this.”